ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has released more than 250 Palestinian prisoners as a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The prisoners were loaded onto buses outside Ketziot prison in southern Israel early today and transported to the West Bank, where crowds of supporters greeted them as heroes. The prisoners were scheduled to meet with President Abbas after their arrival. Reports say prisoners on some of the first buses to cross into Palestinian territory kissed the ground after arriving. Authorities say most of those scheduled for release belong to Mr. Abbas's Fatah faction.
AFGHANISTAN - KIDNAPPING: A Taleban spokesman in
Afghanistan says the militant group has abducted 18 South Koreans who were riding on a bus between Kandahar and Kabul. The spokesman told news agencies (by telephone) today that the group is holding 15 women and three men. He says the South Koreans are safe, and that the Taleban's demands will be announced later. Afghan officials say the South Koreans were abducted Thursday in the southern part of the country. News reports say they were young Christian evangelists. On Wednesday, Taleban gunmen abducted two Germans and several of their Afghan colleagues who were working on a dam project in central Afghanistan.
PAKISTAN - JUSTICE: Pakistan's Supreme Court has reinstated the country's chief justice, suspended earlier this year by President Pervez Musharraf. The court ruled today after hearing final arguments from the lawyer for Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. General Musharraf removed Chaudhry from his post, accusing him of abuse of office. The move sparked nationwide protests against the government. Chaudhry has since become a symbol of resistance to the rule of General Musharraf, who is expected to seek a second term as president later this year.
SRI LANKA - ATTACK: Sri Lankan officials say Tamil Tiger rebels
have attacked a military post in the north of the country, sparking heavy fighting that killed at least 12 people. Military officials say three government soldiers and nine rebels died in the clash that occurred early today in Mannar district. The rebels claimed to have killed 10 soldiers while losing four of their fighters. The attack happened a day after the government held a ceremony celebrating capture of last week of the last Tamil rebel stronghold in the island's volatile east. The rebels still controls large parts of the north. Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils, citing decades of discrimination by Sinhalese-majority governments. About 70-thousand people have been killed in the conflict.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: China's chief nuclear envoy says six-party talks in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear program have ended, with no deadline reached to disable the country's nuclear facilities. Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said today that the six sides, which include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, will meet again in September to continue the arms talks. Wu also said North Korea reiterated its commitment to declare all of its nuclear programs and disable all existing nuclear facilities. A timeline for Pyongyang to proceed with those steps was not given.
CHINA - TAINTED PRODUCTS: China's product safety watchdog
says it has revoked the business licenses of two firms that exported wheat protein tainted with toxic chemicals to the United States. The General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said today that the two companies unlawfully added melamine in some of its products. The tainted wheat gluten from the companies ended up in pet food in the United States, and was blamed for a spate of dog and cat deaths. The action by the administration is the latest in a series of moves by Beijing to try to clean up its drug and food industries.
VIETNAM - HRW: Human Rights Watch is urging Vietnam to respect the right of its citizens to peacefully protest, after it says police broke up a demonstration against land seizures. The New York-based organization issued a statement today saying police in Ho Chi Minh City stopped a protest by hundreds of farmers who had been demonstrating for almost a month outside the city's National Assembly building. Human Rights Watch says the crackdown shows that Vietnam's government continues to curtail people's rights. It said that since joining the World Trade Organization and hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi last year, the government has cracked down on its critics, including prominent religious figures and journalists.
INDONESIA - RIGHTS: Indonesia's Constitutional Court has decided
to scrap centuries-old laws used to punish government critics. Tuesday's court decision found that articles forbidding people from expressing hostility towards the state are unconstitutional. The laws, which were introduced under Dutch colonial rule, will now be removed from the criminal code. Rights advocates praised the decision as a success for Indonesian democracy. The decision was a response to a challenge brought by Panji Utomo, an activist from Aceh province.
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